The periodic table is useful for understanding atomic properties that show periodic trends. One such property is the atomic radius (Figure “Trends on the Periodic Table”). As mentioned earlier, the higher the shell number, the farther from the nucleus the electrons in that shell are likely to be. In other words, the size of an atom is generally determined by the number of the valence electron shell. Therefore, as we go down a column on the periodic table, the atomic radius increases. As we go across a period on the periodic table, however, electrons are being added to the same valence shell; meanwhile, more protons are being added to the nucleus, so the positive charge of the nucleus is increasing. The increasing positive charge attracts the electrons more strongly, pulling them closer to the nucleus. Consequently, as we go across a period, the atomic radius decreases. These trends are seen clearly in Figure “Trends on the Periodic Table”.
Figure, Trends on the Periodic Table. The relative sizes of the atoms show several trends with regard to the structure of the periodic table. Atoms become larger going down a column and smaller going across a period.